US universities urge vigilance by students over coronavirus

Institutions remain open while isolating and testing possible cases

January 28, 2020
Source: iStock

Universities across the US are scrambling to deal with suspected cases of coronavirus in their communities, urging students to alert them of any signs of illness.

The actual problem so far remains limited, with only five confirmed cases across the country, including one person associated with Arizona State University.

The ASU-related person, local health officials said, had recently returned from visiting Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak is believed to have started.

Elsewhere in the US, several universities have reported isolating and testing students with flu-like symptoms, but without any other positive tests reported so far.

The University of Chester, in the UK, has asked any of its students returning from China to avoid the campus for two weeks.

A Chester spokeswoman said the institution issued a statement to the students saying: “It is important that when you return to your home in the UK that you minimise contact with other people for 14 days as a sensible precaution. You should not attempt to visit campus or socialise with your fellow students during this period."

No similar policy appears in effect in the UK or the US, although many US students are being urged by their institutions to visit campus health facilities voluntarily if they experience any possible signs of flu.

Those that have isolated students with suspicious cases include BaylorTexas A&M and Wesleyan universities, where tests came back negative.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it was closely tracking developments and helping efforts to diagnose and treat the virus.

The CDC has not drafted any specific policy for universities, an agency spokesman said.

The American Council on Education, the main US higher education membership association, said it has been monitoring the situation but had no specific advice for institutions beyond the CDC information.

Universities UK said it also is not asking its institutions to take any actions beyond the government’s general public health precautions.

The coronavirus has been blamed for 4,500 cases and more than 100 deaths in mainland China. US health officials are investigating 110 people for possible cases in 26 states, with so far only the five confirmed cases and no deaths, the CDC reported. 

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